St. Joseph, Minn. - The Gustavus Adolphus women’s basketball team propelled itself to a sixth place standing in the MIAC with a 61-58 victory over the College of Saint Benedict on Monday night at Claire Lynch Hall. Trailing 12 points at halftime, the Gusties surged ahead in the second half, outscoring the Blazers 39-24 and shooting 53-percent from the field in the final 20 minutes. Gustavus has won three consecutive games and is now 11-8 overall and 8-8 in the MIAC. Saint Ben’s drops its second straight and falls to 10-8 overall and 7-8 in the MIAC.
“It was a great win – a win that will go down as one of my favorites since coming here,” said Head Coach Laurie Kelly. “It was a great MIAC game and I give our team a lot of credit for not giving up and battling from start to finish. They showed so much character in the face of adversity. This is definitely our best win of the season and it’s a great way to start a very important week.”
Thanks a 6-0 scoring run in the final 2:22 of the first half, Saint Benedict grabbed a 34-22 lead at the break. Gustavus shot just 34.5-percent from the field and turned the ball over 10 times in the half.
“It was unreal – talk about a tale of two halves,” Kelly said about the contrast between the first and second halves. ”We did not play Gustavus basketball in the first half and Saint Ben’s took advantage of that. They had more energy, played better defense, made shots, and outrebounded us. We were just out of sync and not playing like the team who had just won three out of the last four games.”
Gustavus came out firing to start the second half. By the 15:59 mark, the Gusties cut the lead to two points (34-32) following a 10-0 run. By 14:39, Gustavus took its first lead of the half at 37-36 on a jumper by Karina Schroeder (So., Lake Crystal, Minn.).
“We started to play better team basketball and dominated to first four minutes. We were able to continue to build the lead and respond to their runs when we needed to most,” Kelly said.
With the score tied 41-41 with 10:10 remaining in the game, Gustavus scored seven unanswered points over a three minute span to go up 48-41.
The Gusties led by as many as nine points (48-57) with 3:18 remaining, yet Saint Ben’s would not go quietly. After the Blazers cut the lead to 57-55 with 1:23 remaining, senior Julia Dysthe (White Bear Lake, Minn.) knocked down a shot with :26 seconds on the clock to extend the Gustie lead to 59-55. Once Saint Ben’s Annie Dittberner hit a three-pointer to cut the gap to one point (59-58) with :15 seconds to go, Dysthe hit a pair of free throws on the next trip down to seal the three point victory.
“Our whole starting lineup was big in the second half but what it really came down to was the play of our seniors. Julia was clutch at the end, Britta hit some huge shots, and Rachelle took care and distributed the ball with efficiency,” Kelly said.
After scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field in the second half, Britta Rinke (Sr., Waconia, Minn.) finished with a game-high 16 points after going 7-for-12 from the floor, and 1-for-1 from both three-point range and free throw line.
Dysthe finished next in line with 14 points after going 5-for-9 from the field, 2-for-3 from three, and 2-for-2 at the line. Schroeder rounded out the Gusties in double-figures with 10 points (4-10 FG) to go along with nine rebounds.
Gustavus shot 53.6-percent from the field while at the same time limiting Saint Ben’s to 31-percent shooting in the second half.
The Gusties finished the game 15-for-28 (43.9%) from the floor, 3-for-7 (42.9%) from three, and 8-for-13 at the line (61.5%). Saint Ben’s went 21-for-57 (36.8%) from the field, 7-for-20 (35%) from three, and 9-for-18 (50%) at the line.
Saint Ben’s was led in scoring by Annie Dittberner with 13 points, and Morgan Dale and Tish Alexander with 11 points each.
The Gustavus women’s basketball team will take its three-game winning-streak back on the road Wednesday, Feb. 5 when it travels to St. Paul for a 7:30 p.m. game against Macalester.